People want to save the world
Social commentators have recently noticed that people – particularly young people – seem to be moving away from crass selfishness – see, for example, this Huffington Post article, and this Forbes report. More and more people don’t want to just live for themselves. They want to make a difference, to live for something greater. So, they spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to save the world. They volunteer to help the poor and needy through medical work, development work, and education. They enlist in environmental causes, trying to repair the damage done by pollution.
These are all good endeavours. But none of them are going to save the world. They’re like putting band-aids on someone suffering from leukemia. If they’ve cut themselves, the band-aid will stop the cut from getting infected. But it won’t cure the underlying disease. And that disease is what will kill the person eventually.
In my previous posts, we looked at how the evil and death we experience in this world are symptoms of our rebellion against God. But Jesus has solved the problem. He has done everything needed to save us from this disaster. We can be reconciled to God by his death and resurrection. Our deepest problem now is our inability to believe in Jesus (all this in post 1). This can only be overcome by God’s gift of his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit transforms us spiritually so that we put our trust in Jesus and confess him as our Lord (post 2).
Jesus has already saved the world – if we can just believe it!
In C. S. Lewis’ famous children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr Badger says that Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, is good, but not safe, because he’s the king. One thing about kings is – they rule. They take over.
Birth from above will mean we acknowledge Christ the King. And, we recognise that without Christ the King every person is perishing, captive to evil and death. But no-one can have Christ the King unless they are born from above. This must turn our lives and priorities upside down. Every priority must be re-examined. Nothing is the same. Christ the King takes over – wonderfully – as we understand what every person needs: birth from above!
People need to understand the real spiritual issue that lies beneath their experience of evil and death – that is their broken relationship with God. They need to understand that Jesus is the only one who can overcome that spiritual problem – by reconciling us to God. But they can’t grasp this without experiencing that great miracle of birth from above by God’s Holy Spirit.
Pray, speak, and love people towards trust in Jesus
Do you want to make a difference to this world with your life? Do you want to do good to others with your life? Do you want to play a part in ‘saving’ the world? It can only happen one person at a time as each one is born from above. What can you do? There are three players here. God, you, and the person in front of you.
Firstly, pray to God. Birth from above is his gift! Pray that the Holy Spirit will convince people – lots and lots of people – that they have rejected God and need Jesus. The Holy Spirit works through our prayers. Remember, the Spirit is a person, not a power. As a person, he loves responding to his people’s pleas. Many of us will be familiar with Jesus’ famous encouragement to “ask, seek and knock” (Matt 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13). In Luke’s account, Jesus wants us to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit – Luke 11:13!
Secondly, boldly speak about Jesus yourself. Own his name! (Luke 12:8-9) Every conversation is a chance to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. We don’t have to be an obnoxious Bible-thumper. We don’t have to have all the answers to every tough question someone asks. Just be ready to tell people why you love Jesus so much (you do love him, right?). Tell them how much he means to you (he does mean a lot to you, right? He’s the pearl of great price, isn’t he?). We are quick to speak about people we love and treasure. We boast about our children. We show people pictures of our fiancé. That’s how we should speak about Jesus – with natural, comfortable ease, because we love him and are proud of him.
Thirdly, love the person in front of you. Jesus said our love for each other would show the world that we belong to him – John 13:35. This love goes far beyond polite conversations on Sunday. It means siding with God’s people when it’s really, really inconvenient – like when they’re suffering persecution, like in Philippians 1:27-30 and Hebrews 10:32-35. And then there’s love that goes beyond the family of God, caring for people who don’t care about us – who may even want to destroy us. Jesus told us to love our enemies, just like our heavenly Father loves his enemies (Matt 5: 43-48), just like Christ himself does (Romans 5:8).
Do you want to save the world?
More and more people are rightly tired of the damaging effects of selfishness. Instead of just living for themselves, they want to save the world.
But because our ultimate problem is a spiritual one, this world is locked in a death spiral. We can’t change that. This world is like the Titanic with a gigantic hole ripped in its hull, listing to one side. It’s just a matter of time before it drops like a dead weight to the floor of the ocean. There’s no point moving someone from third class to first class. We must get them into the lifeboats.
Our biggest problem is that people are so busy eating, drinking, and dancing, that they don’t even realise that the ship is fatally damaged and going down. We need an inner transformation, so that we realise the ship is sinking, trust the Jesus lifeboat, and jump in. Let’s pray to God, speak and acknowledge Jesus ourselves, and love people to that end.